4/26/09 - Bearcatt rallied to capture $150,000 Woodstock Stakes at Woodbine
Emma-Jayne would like to thank Woodbine Entertainment
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TORONTO, April 26 - Bearcatt rallied strongly to capture Sunday's $150,000 Woodstock Stakes at Woodbine.
The six-furlong contest was the first stakes score for the rapidly developing three-year-old, who has two wins and one second from three career starts.
Bearcatt seized command in mid-stretch and drew off to a convincing 3 1/4-length tally over Congor Bay. Heart of a King was third.
The running time for six furlongs was 1:09.32.
The gray son of Tapit is trained by Reade Baker and is owned by Bear Stables.
The Kentucky-bred colt broke sharp and was one of five three-year-olds across the track vying for command through the opening furlong.
Jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson, who won her second consecutive Woodstock, was able to ease Bearcatt off the pace and keep him out of a speed duel that resulted in fractions of :22.04 and :44.79.
"I couldn't tell how far in front the inside horses were," said Wilson. "Once I got a good glimpse that I was pretty close to them, I got my horse to settle back and he was able to relax."
At the five-sixteenths pole, Bearcatt actually trailed his five rivals, though he was only three lengths off the pace.
"That's when he gained his composure," added Wilson. "Once he settled down, he was able to regain his legs and come with a good run down the lane. He's got a kick."
Baker said he had prepared Bearcatt for the Woodstock all winter, but hadn't intended on the race being his first start of 2009.
"I was going in the Woodstock all along. But I wanted a prep," he said. "By hook or crook, we got here. He's a nice horse."
Purchased for $190,000 as a yearling, Bearcatt has now banked $126,403.
Bearcatt returned $13.70, $5.20 and $3.40, combining with Congor Bay ($3.70, $2.80) for a $62.30 exactor. Heart of a King ($3.70) rounded out a triactor worth $208.50.
2008 IN REVIEW
From Hong Kong to the United States and in her home country of Canada, Emma-Jayne Wilson discovered new worlds, new challenges and plenty of satisfaction in 2008.
In her second full season as a journeyman jockey at Toronto’s Woodbine racetrack (she became the first woman jockey to win the prestigious Queen’s Plate in her first season as a journeyman in 2007) Wilson solidified her position as one of the country’s top riders.
At her home meeting, Wilson won 111 races from 879 mounts and her mounts collected purse earnings of over $6.1 million.That was good for third place in the standings behind multiple champion rider Patrick Husbands and Jim McAleney.And, if you ask the 27-year-old from Brampton, Ontario – or anyone who has seen her determination and work ethic at the track - she’s just getting started.
Wilson had just settled into a routine at Fair Grounds racetrack in New Orleans , close to Christmas time, when the phone rang. The chief steward from the Hong Kong Jockey Club wanted to offer Wilson a position as a club jockey to Wilson for the winter of 2008. There was little doubt that Wilson had made an impression on the folks in Hong Kong since she had ridden there in the International Jockey Challenge in early December. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, I was honoured,” said Wilson.
In a flurry, Wilson packed up her tack and her belongings and headed to the other side of the world where she embarked on a new journey. “Racing in Hong Kong is very, very different than it is in North America, it is very much like European racing,” said Wilson. “We raced (on a) right-handed course and, strategically, many aspects of their races are different.”
One of the biggest challenges for Wilson was that she was her own agent: it was up to her to meet people, find horses to prep in the mornings and then hopefully ride in competition. “I guess I had taken it for granted what my agent Mike (Luider) does for me, handling all sorts of details that go into getting mounts. It was extremely challenging.”
Wilson rode for over three months in Hong Kong and gained some valuable experience. “One of the things I learned a lot about in Hong Kong was the different way trainers would have their horses worked in the mornings. The trainers would tell the riders what fractions they wanted and almost always it was 30 seconds for the first quarter mile and then finish in :24 seconds.”
Wilson’s Hong Kong career, while admittedly challenging, provided her with a unique experience and skills she would later use successfully once the Woodbine meeting got underway.
“It was extra important for her, especially in the long haul,” said Luider, who has represented Wilson since the very first day of her riding career. “There were top riders from all over the world competing there – that experience will go a long way in creating the fabric she needs to be her very best.”
The long and competitive Woodbine racing season began on Mar. 31 and admittedly, both Wilson and Luider felt the effects of being away from the Woodbine scene for four months.
“We got off to a bit of a slow start,” said Luider. “Emma had been riding on the other side of the world, it took some time for us to get into the groove.” But it didn’t take long for Wilson to make the stakes highlight reel.
In the April – Woodstock Stakes, Wilson guided Rumbling Cloud to a gritty win in the 6-furlong sprint as 8 to 1 longshots. It was a special win for Wilson since it provided former rider Larry Attard, along with his wife Veronica, with his first stakes winner.
In June, Wilson started up a special relationship with a tall, leggy chestnut colt that shipped into Woodbine for trainer Mike Stidham. Named Secret Getaway, the colt won the June 8 Victoria Park Stakes in his first partnership with Wilson and then promptly took the Toronto Cup, a turf race, over subsequent classic winner Marlang. “He’s as honest a horse as they come,” said Wilson. “He can run on anything and he’s very tenacious.” Secret Getaway and Wilson traveled to Arlington for the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at one and one-quarter miles on grass but the pair finished eighth. Back at Woodbine, the colt went toe-to-toe in a prolonged duel with the tough stakes winner Sand Cove in the Ontario Derby and was edged only by a neck.
In June, Queen’s Plate month, Wilson formed friends with Heather Takahashi’s quirky colt named Shadowless. Third in the Queenston Stakes with Wilson up, Shadowless went into the June 22 Plate off a third-place finisher in an allowance race but the Plate distance of 10 furlongs seemed beyond him and he finished 11th. Later Wilson would play a valuable role in getting Shadowless back to top form – they finished in the top three in five of their next six trips.
A theme began to develop with Wilson with similar types of horses - horses ready to discover the best form of their careers. In 2007, Tell It As It Is was a nice allowance horse for Richard Lister and trainer Jim Smith.
“I always like her and we all knew she was good enough to be a stakes winner,” said Wilson.
Well, on June 18 on the Woodbine turf, Wilson guided Tell It As It Is to a win in the Tattling Stakes and in October, the pair would take the Maple Leaf Stakes on Polytrack, Wilson’s 3rd consecutive score in that 1 ¼ mile race.
Wilson and Luider settled into a steady groove once the spring moved into summer and the fall racing season approached. "The wins and stakes wins were coming more frequently. I got a good rhythm and comfort level going “Our jockey colony at Woodbine is large and there are so many talented riders.
Mike and I have never had a main outfit to ride for and that makes it challenging to pick and choose who we are going to ride each and every day.”
A poignant moment for Wilson came in early summer – July 12 – when she was back on board her giant friend, Mike Fox. It had been just over a year ago that Mike Fox and Emma surged to a Queen’s Plate victory and now they were back to meet allowance company. In an effort reminiscent of the Plate score, the pair were seemingly beaten late in the race but came back on to win.
In October, Wilson was reunited with one of her all-time favourite horses, Tucci Stables’ white-faced gelding Just Rushing – his likeness can be seen on her racing logo. The 7-year-old, trained by Sid Attard, was a multiple stakes winner in 2007 with Wilson as his partner and on Oct. 26 in the Labeeb Stakes the two put on quite a show.The one-mile grass event was one of the most visually impressive stakes wins by any horse at Woodbine in 2008. Appearing hopelessly beaten on the turn of the one-mile event, the pair came back on to win by a neck over stakes winner Ice Bear. “He makes me speechless,”said Wilson. “We were losing ground on the turn and I thought ‘this is not good’. I said to him, ‘Rushin, you never give up and neither do I’ and he bore down and came on again.” And Wilson had had earlier success with the Tucci family in 2008 when she rode Artie Hot to an upset score in the Grade 3 Seagram Cup, defeating two-time champion runner True Metropolitan.
The fall season at Woodbine traditionally kicks off with the running of the six yearling sales stakes races the day after Labour Day. And Wilson is especially proud of her win that day aboard the tough gelding Head Chopper in the Elgin Stakes. “I had never ridden him before but his trainer Steve Owens had always had the Elgin in mind. I started working with him in the mornings to finish his preps stronger in the late stages,” similar to the style of training she learned in Hong Kong. In the Elgin, the often win-shy Head Chopper made a last minute surge to win in the last strides. “It was very satisfying, everything really went according to plan.” Also in October, Wilson joined forces with trainer Reade Baker and piloted the undefeated filly 2-year-old High Mist to a win in the Fanfreluche Stakes.
For the first time since she began her riding career, Wilson elected to take a winter season off and, through Christmas 2008 and the early months of 2009, worked on her fitness with a personal trainer, took some vacation time on the ski slopes and freshened her mind and body. “There are just so many little things that go with riding a racehorse. There really is no playbook. At first, when you are an apprentice, it is a whirlwind, and then you have to make the transition to journeyman – learn to retain your composure.”
And Luider agrees that the winter of 2008 and 2009 has been beneficial for his star athlete.
“She is just getting smarter and stronger every day, she’s so much stronger now than she was a year ago.”
A few weeks before the opening of the Woodbine season on April 4, Wilson and Luider will head to New Orleans and Florida to re-establish connections and prep for the upcoming season. “For me, I want to continue to grow and establish myself, zoom in on the details of race strategy, such as handicapping a race and reading between the lines.”
That should ensure a lot more good storylines for Wilson in 2009.